Thursday, November 26, 2015

Many Reasons to Be Thankful

This Thanksgiving a weight was lifted off our shoulders bright and early. The remaining hay with Panicum was picked up by our hay supplier. No more worrying. No more raking up toxic grass. Even better news was that he has first cut orchard grass from a field with no panicum. He brought us four bales for our approval. I seriously could have hugged that bale of hay just because I saw no toxic grass. I can't wait to get that hay delivered.

Our 79 year old hay supplier had his son look up the toxic grass online, so they would know what the grass looks like. Once they saw the picture they knew what it was and could know which fields the hay came from. The cows actually get fat on that hay and it is requested by cow owners most often, but they did not know the toxic effect to horses. They were glad to find out and not sell any to horse people. We sent back 60 bales, which was close to the amount we had not paid for yet. We could not believe it when he told us he would credit us 60 bales from the next delivery. Oh, no we could not accept that and cause him to lose nearly $500. We told him we were square and would start fresh.

On top of the immense relief of waving good bye to toxic hay, we spent the day with the horses, had great weather and capped off the day with a ride. Now we wait for dinner. And tomorrow I will enjoy not having to work on Black Friday.

Enjoy the holiday everyone!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Panicum Panic

Some of you may have heard about the reappearance of Panicum grass, aka panic grass, in the Northern Virginia area. That news greeted us when we returned from vacation. The fall panicum grass is toxic to horses and can cause liver damage. Then after getting 110 bales of hay from our normal supplier, we read some of the reports saying the panic grass has been seen in the Manassas/Nokesville area. OH SHIT! Guess where our supplier cuts his hay?
So now we look at our hay with wary eyes. I looked on the Internet trying to find a picture of this grass. Unfortunately most of the pictures were of the grass uncut in a field or garden. I found some seed heads that did not look like the normal variety we see in our hay. Another Internet search found a picture of Switchgrass (panicum virgitum) and it looked like the stuff I was seeing.
Only our stuff was dried...

Well VA Tech was giving a talk on the issue at the MARE center this week. Peggy decided to go and get some more information. You could also bring in samples to be checked. They could tell you the bad effects, but not how much or little of the grass could cause the problems. This happened about 10 years ago and caused the death of at least five horses. Beyond that the other effected horses cost about $10,000 each to treat. Nothing good.

They did talk about identifying the grass in the hay. It tends to be stockier and at the bulbs it angles. There is hair like stuff at the base of where a seed head would start. The sample Peggy brought was Panicum, but not the fall kind. Peggy and Mom looked at our hay the next day and did find fall Panicum.
Angling, with hair

Panicum Pile :(
Since it is stocky, the horses do not like it much and will leave it behind. With about 70 bales left, we where left with the decision of what to do. Do we feed extra so they don't feel the need to eat the bad stuff? Or do we return the hay and try to find another supplier?

Let me tell you it is so hard. Our hay guy is great because he takes payments, very unusual. Going with someone else means having to shell out a large sum at one time. But weighed against the possible liver damage of the horses... Yeah see the problem. Last night I could not fill the hay bags with the hay. I told Peggy that we need to feed it loose so they can easily pick through it. Then at night we can give them the clean hay that the 30+ year eats out of the hay bags. I believe we will send the end back once we get in touch with our supplier. He has cows that can eat it safely. The worst part is who knows when his grass will be safe again for horses.
I piece makes the whole bale scary
I get panicked just seeing the stockier hay, and not all of it is the bad stuff. Peggy will get a CBC done on Comrade and Sonny when we have the vet out for Coggins. If the cost is not too high, I may try to spring for it for my guys too. Comrade's should tell a lot since he eats most of what is given to the red boys.

Lets hope we can get some peace of mind soon.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Hairy Situation

I kept seeing all the "No Stirrup November" posts and figured I would try to do some this month. For me that means bareback. So I have ridden Rosemary, Dottie and Comrade bareback in the last week. Roscoe was up next and I went back and forth whether to attempt a bareback ride with him. The last time I tried was not long before he went to Indiana. That ride ended up with me on the ground because he was able to suck in his tummy and loosen the girth enough to tip me off.
Night eyes and Rough Cob look

You may have figured out I really enjoy riding bareback and decided to go for it. The first test, how does the pad fit? It actually worked with both sides on the last hole. The next was getting on and making sure I had the balls to follow through. Well, my baby is definitely wider and that makes me more comfortable. Plus he has better body awareness and is not so wiggly.
I was seriously impressed with his walk. Yeah, I know I say that all the time, but for this ride he was active and pushing. Even lazy he can over step, so the energy he gave was great. Then I asked for trot. Roscoe did move forward, but it was more of a jog. I was okay with that while I got a feeling for his back. Overall the trot was much better than I expected and I could relax. But when I relaxed, Roscoe was like "this is weird." The full seat feeling was different and he started thinking. When he just does, he moves off fine. If he starts thinking we lose forward. And in this case he decided that trotting was not the thing to do. So now I had a situation. Do I push the point and get him to trot? Or do I refocus on another task? I had to be sure I could follow through with the push if I went that way. Nothing he had done to that point gave me any bad feelings, so I pushed. The first few times I had to tap him with the whip. Then he started to figure out he could move even though I felt different. Roscoe decided that he would move on with a burst and maybe not stop. So we did transitions until he was not sticky at all with either the upward or downward. At that point I called it a win and hopped off. Bareback won't be a normal occurrence with Roscoe, but at least I know it will work in a pinch.
Racing stripe
All the riding we have done recently has shown who needs clips and who can wait a bit longer. Rosemary was the one who was sweaty even before working, while Roscoe and Winston just got sweaty during work. The old guys will stay hairy unless they get too hot on the warmer days. I really want them to retain as much as they can. I had a bit of time after we stacked new hay and decided to give Rosemary her clip. This year I went bigger than normal, but not as much as I have seen online. Hopefully this clip will be just enough for the amount of work we do with her. I did not have time to do anything creative, but that may come later. I still need to do the other two. Luckily the blades are sharp. Now if only there was a way to deal with the hairy situation afterwards. Hay and hair make for a very itchy shirt.
My SUPER patient pony

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

All In The Family

Whew 7 days in a sorta sunny Florida put me into riding withdrawal. I went from September where I rode 20 out 30 days to missing nearly 20 days. Hard to be too upset when my grandmother was so happy to see us all.

It also gave me my normal rash on my hands. There is something in Florida that just does not work for me. I dreaded having to stack 150 bales of hay when we got home with my hands so sore, but I was saved by the rain.

Our first day back I asked Peggy if she was off restriction now from her eye surgery. She was, so we did a trail ride through the fall foliage. I definitely felt the time off and 14 hour drive when I sat on Dottie's broad back. It was totally worth the ride though.

The next day Peggy was sick, we found moldy cubes and it was raining. Not good. By time we went out and got new cubes, the rain had stopped and I decided to see how wild my stallion was after all the time off. Turned out he was still on vacation. Mom rode Rosemary and Roscoe was seriously distracted. Mom was trying to tell me how to get him working, but lack of sleep had me not willing to listen to her and a little pissy. I did finally get tired of his poking around and really whapped him across the butt with the whip. And what do you know, he finally tuned into what I was telling him. I felt bad, but I guess he needed the proverbial 2x4. It did feel good not to have to keep nagging him and I did not have to be heavy handed with the whip again. Sharing the ring with Rosemary was really good for him to learn that he could do his own job while she did hers.

At some point during the ride, I realized that we were divided into mothers and offspring. I had to have a picture. Roscoe was super about standing next to Rosemary.

All in the Family :)

One thing the picture shows, is that Roscoe has the same length of leg as Rosemary. I had taken baling twine to his leg, Comrade's and Rosemary's a bit ago, so I already knew it but it is cool to actually see it side by side. He is only an inch off of Comrade's leg length. I think he will be taller than his mother, but stay under 14.2h. He is filling out width wise and that will make a difference too. Roscoe already fills out his sheet from last year much better.

Now to mail off his Stallion Service Report so his foals can be registered and wait to hear if Rosemary's nomination for Welsh of the year will go into the running.